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Virtual Light (Bantam Spectra Book) Hardcover – Sep 1993


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Dell Pub Group (Trd); First Printing edition (Sep 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553074997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553074994
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Gibson is the award-winning author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, The Difference Engine, with Bruce Sterling, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties and Pattern Recognition. William Gibson lives in Vancouver, Canada. His latest novel, published by Penguin, is Spook Country (2007).

Product Description

About the Author

"Since 1948"Gene Wolfe once said that being an only child whose parents are dead is like being the sole survivor of drowned Atlantis. There was a whole civilization there, an entire continent, but it's gone. And you alone remember. That's my story too, my father having died when I was six, my mother when I was eighteen. Brian Aldiss believes that if you look at the life of any novelist, you'll find an early traumatic break, and mine seems no exception.I was born on the coast of South Carolina, where my parents liked to vacation when there was almost nothing there at all. My father was in some sort of middle management position in a large and growing construction company. They'd built some of the Oak Ridge atomic facilities, and paranoiac legends of "security" at Oak Ridge were part of our family culture. There was a cigar-box full of strange-looking ID badges he'd worn there. But he'd done well at Oak Ridge, evidently, and so had the company he worked for, and in the postwar South they were busy building entire red brick Levittown-style suburbs. We moved a lot, following these projects, and he was frequently away, scouting for new ones.It was a world of early television, a new Oldsmobile with crazy rocket-ship styling, toys with science fiction themes. Then my father went off on one more business trip. He never came back. He choked on something in a restaurant, the Heimlich maneuver hadn't been discovered yet, and everything changed.My mother took me back to the small town in southwestern Virginia where both she and my father were from, a place where modernity had arrived to some extent but was deeply distrusted. The trauma of my father's death aside, I'm convinced that it was this experience of feeling abruptly exiled, to what seemed like the past, that began my relationship with science fiction.I eventually became exactly the sort of introverted, hyper-bookish boy you'll find in the biographies of most American science fiction writers, obsessively filling shelves with paperbacks and digest-sized magazines, dreaming of one day becoming a writer myself.At age fifteen, my chronically anxious and depressive mother having demonstrated an uncharacteristic burst of common sense in what today we call parenting, I was shipped off to a private boys' school in Arizona. There, extracted grub-like and blinking from my bedroom and those bulging plywood shelves, I began the forced invention of a less Lovecraftian persona - based in large part on a chance literary discovery a year or so before.I had stumbled, in my ceaseless quest for more and/or better science fiction, on a writer name Burroughs -- not Edgar Rice but William S., and with him had come his colleagues Kerouac and Ginsberg. I had read this stuff, or tried to, with no idea at all of what it might mean, and felt compelled - compelled to what, I didn't know. The effect, over the next few years, was to make me, at least in terms of my Virginia home, Patient Zero of what would later be called the counterculture. At the time, I had no way of knowing that millions of other Boomer babes, changelings all, were undergoing the same metamorphosis.In Arizona, science fiction was put aside with other childish things, as I set about negotiating puberty and trying on alternate personae with all the urgency and clumsiness that come with that, and was actually getting somewhere, I think, when my mother died with stunning suddenness. Dropped literally dead: the descent of an Other Shoe I'd been anticipating since age six.Thereafter, probably needless to say, things didn't seem to go very well for quite a while. I left my school without graduating, joined up with rest of the Children's Crusade of the day, and shortly found my self in Canada, a country I knew almost nothing about. I concentrated on evading the draft and staying alive, while trying to make sure I looked like I was at least enjoying the Summer of Love. I did literally evade the draft, as they never bothered drafting me, and have lived here in Canada, more or less, ever since.Having ridden out the crest of the Sixties in Toronto, aside from a brief, riot-torn spell in the District of Columbia, I met a girl from Vancouver, went off to Europe with her (concentrating on countries with fascist regimes and highly favorable rates of exchange) got married, and moved to British Columbia, where I watched the hot fat of the Sixties congeal as I earned a desultory bachelor's degree in English at UBC.In 1977, facing first-time parenthood and an absolute lack of enthusiasm for anything like "career," I found myself dusting off my twelve-year-old's interest in science fiction. Simultaneously, weird noises were being heard from New York and London. I took Punk to be the detonation of some slow-fused projectile buried deep in society's flank a decade earlier, and I took it to be, somehow, a sign. And I began, then, to write.And have been, ever since.Google me and you can learn that I do it all on a manual typewriter, something that hasn't been true since 1985, but which makes such an easy hook for a lazy journalist that I expect to be reading it for the rest of my life. I only used a typewriter because that was what everyone used in 1977, and it was manual because that was what I happened to have been able to get, for free. I did avoid the Internet, but only until the advent of the Web turned it into such a magnificent opportunity to waste time that I could no longer resist. Today I probably spend as much time there as I do anywhere, although the really peculiar thing about me, demographically, is that I probably watch less than twelve hours of television in a given year, and have watched that little since age fifteen. (An individual who watches no television is still a scarcer beast than one who doesn't have an email address.) I have no idea how that happened. It wasn't a decision.I do have an email address, yes, but, no, I won't give it to you. I am one and you are many, and even if you are, say, twenty-seven in grand global total, that's still too many. Because I need to have a life and waste time and write.I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.6 Nov 2002William Gibson is the award-winning author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, The Difference Engine, with Bruce Sterling, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties and Pattern Recognition. William Gibson lives in Vancouver, Canada. His latest novel, published by Penguin, is Spook Country (2007). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By "jester_1059" on 16 May 2003
Format: Paperback
Having read the other reviews of Virtual Light I felt it best to throw in my pennies worth. First, lets all just agree that William Gibson is a great SF writer. NO, just agree, it'll be easier.
Lets also say that Virtual Light is not the best place to start. Most of his books are set in the same near-future setting, and interweave delicately with each other: part of the fun of reading a new Gibson novel is spotting the characters from previous works who occaisionally pop their heads into the plot, either for a guest appearance or for a more starring role (anyone who's read them will remember Molly, in all her incarnations, as being one of the most memorable...). But that's just the point. Unless you've read all of them, starting at Virtual Light might be too much effort. Start at the beginning, with 'Neuromancer', which is, on it's own, both one of the finest cyberpunk novels ever written and the ideal starting point to get to grips with Gibson's writing style.
The first Gibson book I read was Virtual Light, and I have to agree with one of the other reviews here: at the time, it seemed rushed, too flaky, too insubstantial to take in. Then I read Neuromancer, realized they were something of a series, and got the lot. I have now read them all, and while they do vary in content and quality, they all have a particular fast-paced atmosphere that reveals him as an accomplished author. Virtual Light suffers in the same way as Count Zero: if read as part of the whole, they are each a wonderful, engaging dip into Gibson's intricate near future; strange, twisted tales of losers and winners wound round the plots and concepts that will draw fans in further and further...if read on their own, they may seem too distant, so take my advice and START AT THE BEGINNING!!!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tony Criscuolo on 18 Oct 2000
Format: Paperback
As I read the first couple of chapters I nearly gave up on the book. I even thought it was a series of short stories because it jumped about so much. But I read on and was rewarded by a story that absorbed me so much I was truly sorry when it ended. Looking at some of the other reviews, all I can say is persevere - and the glasses are explained at the end.
The characterisation is excellent and believable - take the journey!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jane Aland VINE VOICE on 26 April 2007
Format: Paperback
Set in the very near future San Francisco (in fact, by now a few years in the past!) this novel follows the trail of a pair of information-filled 'virtual light' sunglasses, the bike courier Chevette who steals them on a whim, and the burnt-out rentacop Rydell who is tasked with recovering them. Plot-wise this is fairly standard thriller territory, with criminals, bent cops, and unwitting heroes caught up in the chase to secure the sunglasses, but it's Gibson's wonderfully colourful SF setting that makes this such a delight to read - the Golden Gate Bridge transformed into a shanty-town; a television worshipping Christian sect; a modern-day martyr responsible for a vaccination against AIDS; a world where the ubiquity of computer data transfer makes physical couriers important and reality TV producers have as much power as the police. An evocative look at a world close to our own but still startlingly different, 'Virtual Light's characters and setting are strong enough to triumph over a workmanlike plot.

NB: This novel stands well enough alone, but it is followed by two sequels: 'Idoru' and 'All Tomorrow's Parties'.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Douglas TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
Virtual Light is set in a near future San Francisco and has an ordinary plot whereby someone gets hold of an item they shouldn't have, and people in power want it back.
In this case it is a pair of sunglasses that have the ability to display virtual light - an overlay on normal vision. Not that the sunglasses matter much, they just give an excuse for big people to chase the little people.
The story, you will gather, is nothing to get excited about, and you will find pacier and more gripping thrillers elsewhere.
What rescues it as a novel is Gibson's vision of the future - not the science, but the society. Power is held by the Corporates, society is fragmented and many people have fallen through the cracks into a sub-culture.
It is close enough to the present to be believable, and Gibson provides vivid descriptions to help you visualise this fractured future.
I shame then, that the story itself isn't very good.
Three stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Brookes on 2 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More great sci-fi from Gibson.

Very interesting characters, a brilliantly portrayed future landscape, and a fast and compelling story.

Not quite as mind-blowing as some of his earlier stuff, and I felt the main character was too much like Max from "Dark Angel" and so gave off a whiff of unoriginality.

Great, though, and well worth a read.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 31 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
Reading a Gibson novel is an act of faith. He weaves seemingly tenuous threads into a vivid plot. Don't expect to fully comprehend where you're going until you're well into his story. Looking at the last pages doesn't help, either. Let him carry you through the story. It's worth the effort. Gibson's characterizations are peerless, even though so many of his people seem outlandish in our perception. His eye for the future is unmatched. Harlan Ellison's dictum that "SF" means "speculative fiction" and not "science fiction" finds its greatest expression in Gibson's works. This book, which became the introduction to a trilogy, is a fine example of all these elements.
Berry Rydell was a Tennessee copper. Caught up in bizarre circumstances while "protecting the public," he becomes a Cop In Trouble. If policemen today think "political correctness" has impaired their effectiveness, wait until they see the future Gibson has in store for them. Lawsuits resulting from law enforcement activities are rampant. But the police have support. It comes from media producers who see enhanced viewer capture in publicizing these cases. Who but Gibson could view the corporate mentality with such perception? By the time of this story, corporate America has built up such a web of interfaces between themselves and the world it becomes impossible to extricate them. Rydell views video screens with the question "Woman or machine?" arising with distressing frequency. Driven from the police force, Rydell takes up with a security firm and relocated to Los Angeles. It's a drastically different world compared to Knoxville, but he hasn't seen anything yet. Before long he's in San Francisco, then off to Texas.
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